The Life and Letters of World War I Aerial Observer Lt. Mortimer M. Lawrence – July 1917

July 3, 1917.


Dear Folks:-

Well tomorrow is a holiday and I think we will all appreciate it.  Some of the men are going to march in the parade at Highland Park but I didn’t volunteer so I am not going.

If this letter gets home before my laundry goes please look up my drawing triangles and the steel rule I bought just a couple of months ago and enclose them with the laundry.  They are probably in the left hand drawer of my chiffonier where I put them when I brought them home from the office.  The rule may be inside the case with my drawing instruments.

This morning I went before the Board of Reviews.  Of course I don’t know definitely how I came out but I received the impression that I would be allowed to stay.  I was only in with the board a short time, much shorter than the rest of the men and they seemed satisfied with my answers to their questions which were along the line of general health, normal weight, education and previous military training.  I think my instructors all gave me a good boost.  Well here’s hoping I come out O.K.  I will probably know by the end of the week.

Must go to the Post Office so this goes out tonight.

Lots of love,



[July 10, 1917]

Dear Folks:-


As I wired you this morning I have been discharged on account of being underweight.

Thought I’d like to have a few days vacation so I am going to stop in Chicago and elsewhere but will be home soon.  Don’t worry about me because I am O.K. and am not going to do anything foolish.

Am enclosing two express orders.  The one for Sis includes the T.P.A., hose, pictures and the $5.00 I borrowed Sunday.


Love to all,



Dear Folks:-


Arrived here O.K. and when I reported to the Recruiting Office was told to be on hand to leave for St. Louis at 8 P.M.

Don’t be surprised if you get a telegram soon saying I am on my way home for I know that the physical exam I received was only a preliminary and we will all get a regular exam when we get to St. Louis.  Maybe they will object to my weight then.

This afternoon I went for a farewell swim in Lake Michigan out at Clarendon Beach.  There is a dandy municipal beach now where we used to go swimming four and five years ago.

Don’t say anything about the Army till you hear from me that things are O.K.

By the way will you have Father or Will find out my draft registration number, my card is #5 of the 4th Precinct of Beaver Dam.  The County board of Exemptions had taken all the names and given them consecutive numbers, so each one must know his new number to determine his fate.

Will let you know how I land in St. Louis.


Love to all,




Fort Snelling,

July 23, 1917.

Dear Folks:-

Well we are settled here for a week or ten days and then we move again. As soon as the quarantine is raised, which may be tomorrow or not for two weeks, we will be assigned to companies and start work in earnest. At present we have no drills, nothing except a five mile hike each morning and nothing more to do unless detailed to help the cook or guard camp.

We are living here in tents, large square tents which hold eight men. We have eighteen tents on our company street and we are not allowed off the company street. On account of the fellows receiving typhoid inoculations and having sore arms from vaccinations we will have very little drilling during quarantine but after that work will start in regular order. I expect I will be in the 42nd Infantry when I finally get set.

We left Jefferson Barracks Saturday afternoon about 4 o’clock. There were 520 of us and we had a train of a baggage car, for eats, and 12 pullmans and tourist sleepers. We were assigned between 30 and 45 to a car according to size there being 3 men to a section, 2 men in the lower and one in the upper. Each section had a table and we were fed right on the train, not luxuriously, you understand, but plenty of it.

We came via Iron Mountain to St. Louis, CB & L to Burlington, Ia. and CRI & P to Minneapolis, the most direct route possible. Sunday morning we stopped for an hour at Albert Lea, Minn. And everybody got lots of exercise. We arrived here about 4 P.M.

If you can’t find any of my bandanas buy me two more blue ones and send them. I have about a dozen white ones but they take too much washing. Also you might put in one of those hand towels I had at Ft. Sheridan and that small bottle of “DDD” which I think is in the left hand drawer of my bureau.

“Chow time” at Fort Snelling

“Chow time” at Fort Snelling

I don’t need a new housewife because Uncle Sam gave me a perfectly good one but I am going to try to find some kind of a roll for toilet articles when I get into Minneapolis. If you have any thing around the house that I haven’t read and that you aren’t particular in what condition it is returned please send it because we are cut off from any source of supply now.

The weather has been rather warm but the nights have been good both here and at Jefferson Barracks.

Hope you are well. I am fine and eating like a horse. My vaccination worked only a little and didn’t make my arm sore. I hope it took enough so that I don’t get another.

Love to all. Remember me to all who inquire and tell them I like the army fine. I really think it will do me lots of good physically.

Love to all,



Address mail to

5th Recruit Co.

41st Infantry,

Fort Snelling,



There is no need for a “Mr” or any prefix whatever.

Mortimer’s persistence in joining the Army, despite them turning him away, was the stuff newspaper articles are made of.


The Citizen, a local newspaper in Beaver Dam, highlighted Lawrence’s determination to serve his country in this article.

July 28, 1917

My dear Lawrence-

I must offer apologies to you for not having written you sooner, but tho’t I had. However I have just found out that I did not. Was very glad to hear you had enlisted. I knew you would and if you get a chance to go up for a commission take it. Had you been able to stay I feel sure you would have been one of those selected as officers. Your work was very satisfactory in the Battery & I disliked very much seeing you go. I feel sure you have the qualifications of an officer and your education and intelligence are quite in line with what is desirable in an officer. I should not hesitate to recommend you for examination for commission or for commission in either the Infantry or Artillery.


I feel sure that hereafter the system of officering the Armies to be raised after these contemplated at present be by promotion and commission from the ranks. I have heard that you are a non-commissioned officer, if it is true congratulations. Keep your eye on and work for commissioned grade – Study & work hard, be anxious to absorb knowledge from any one who has it and if you have the wide awake interest and knowledge you exhibited here you will make it alright. If it is a recommendation you want let me know, you can make your own way. Keep your eyes & ears open, use your common sense and keep your mouth closed unless asked about something is the rule for all soldiers who succeed. Let me hear from you again. I shall take great interest in hearing of your advance.


Very truly yours

James P. Marley

Capt U.S.A.July28